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Fryer Library, University of Queensland

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by Marina Marangos (subscribe)
Published August 9th 2017
Immerse yourself in literature and more
I recently had the opportunity to be shown around the Fryer Library. This is a unique library which is part of the University of Queensland at the St Lucia Campus.

The Fryer Library
The Fryer Library

It is called the Fryer Library after John Denis Fryer, a talented young man who was awarded a scholarship to attend the University. Soon after starting at UQ he volunteered for military service and was sent to France and Belgium. He was badly wounded in a German attack in 1918 and was brought back to Australia. He returned to UQ and became active in both the University and the student Magazine "Galmahra" which he edited. He was also involved in the Drama society and was an excellent rugby player. Sadly Fryer developed TB and was too sick to take his final exams. The University awarded him a BA degree in December of 1922. This promising young man lost his life several months later in February of 1923.

John Denis Fryer. From the RSL Virtual War Memorial site.
John Denis Fryer

A photo of John Denis Fryer from Wikipedia
A photo of John Denis Fryer from Wikipedia

As a memorial to their former member and vice-president, members of the University Dramatic Society donated 10 to establish a collection of works in Australian literature. With this collection as its foundation, the Fryer Memorial Library of Australian Literature was established in 1927.

The John Denis Fryer Collection

The John Denis Fryer Collection features items from Fryer's life, as a son and brother as well as a devoted student and soldier. A selection of Fryer's photographs and correspondence is also available online.

The library, which is located on Level Four of the Duhig Building, is a comfortable and serene place that is welcoming to all. The library is open to everyone and it is well worth a visit.

It houses one of the most significant collections of Australian literature and you will see the handwritten and edited notes of David Malouf here as he wrote some of his most famous books like 12 Edmondstone St and Johno, as well as some jottings of the wonderfully talented Thea Astley. There are rare books and manuscripts documenting important moments in Australia's past.

In 1967 the library was bequeathed a phenomenally rich collection from Father Leo Hayes, the parish priest at Oakey, who had over many decades amassed what can only be described as Australiana.

Leo Hayes as a young man
Leo Hayes as a young man

Father Hayes' collection included 25,000 books, some 30,000 manuscripts, cultural items, gifts and maps. It took over four removal trucks to transport cartons of books, anthropological specimens, maps, paper clippings and even cattle bells to the University.

In his time at Woodford- Kilcoy where he served, Father Hayes acquired many items from the Bunya Mountains like stone axes and boomerangs. He was very interested in Aboriginal culture and became a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and participated in a number of expeditions to the Carnarvon Ranges in 1937, 1938 and 1940. Important collectibles from these expeditions were also added. Once the collection had come under the University's care it took 35 people to process and catalogue the many priceless items.

The anthropological part of his collection consists of over 1500 pieces. These are housed in the University's Anthropological Museum and, while a vast majority are from Australia, there are also wonderful items from Africa, China, Nepal and parts of Polynesia and Melanesia.

Fryer Library is generally open from 10 am to 4 pm but it is best to check the times before you go. You can borrow books, look at what is on display, ask for archival material, conduct research, or simply browse. You can ask for a tour for a group and the library staff would happily arrange it and if you are interested in a particular item to be put on display they will organise it. If you are lucky to be shown around the library by the current Manager Mr Simon Farley you will share some of the passion he holds for some of the exhibits in the Library.

Collections at the Fryer Library

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Why? Fascinating archival material on Australian literature and culture
When: generally open between 10 am and 4 pm
Phone: 07 3365 6236
Where: Fryer Library The University of Queensland St Lucia QLD 4072 , Level four, Duhig Building
Cost: Free.
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